Getting Long-Term Disability (LTD) Benefits for Ankylosing Spondylitis
Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is an inflammatory disease that occurs in the spine. This disease can cause the bones in the spine to fuse together, which can decrease a person’s flexibility and cause a hunched back. The primary symptom of ankylosing spondylitis is back pain, which can sometimes make it harder to diagnose as many people suffer from back pain unrelated to this disease.
Nevertheless, when a person develops ankylosing spondylitis—which can develop even in teenagers—it can become debilitating. You may find that, over time, it prevents you from working. In such situations, you must consider filing for long-term disability (LTD) benefits. These benefits can protect a percentage of your income when you cannot work due to a condition such as ankylosing spondylitis.
What Is Ankylosing Spondylitis?
As mentioned, ankylosing spondylitis (also known as Bechterew’s Disease) is an inflammatory disease that affects the spine. It is a form of arthritis. Anyone can develop this condition, though it is vastly more common in men than women; however, women may be underdiagnosed. Moreover, it usually develops between the ages of 16 and 30, and it is a lifelong condition. While onset AS could develop in a person past the age of 50, this is rare.
The condition’s name “ankylosing spondylitis” comes from the term ankylosis. The official definition of ankylosis reads: “abnormal stiffening and immobility of a joint due to fusion of the bones.” Spondylitis simply refers the inflammation of the spine. While there are several types of spondylitis, AS is the most common.
When a person suffers from ankylosing spondylitis the bones of the vertebrae can begin to fuse together, causing decreased mobility in the back. Over time, this can lead a person to develop a hunched back. Despite occurring in the spine, this condition can affect other parts of the body.
Currently, estimates show that around one percent of the adult population in the United States has AS, though the number may be much greater. In any case, unlike other forms of arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis is not a natural part of aging that develops due to the “wear and tear” of the bones and ligaments.
Symptoms of Ankylosing Spondylitis
The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis will vary from person to person, but there are signs you can look out for to see whether you may have AS. However, it is important to note that the symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis overlap with other spondyloarthropathies. Thus, it is important to visit your doctor if you think you may have AS. Common symptoms include:
- Lower back pain (this is commonly where most cases of AS begin);
- Pain and stiffness in your lower back, shoulders, buttocks, hands, rib cage, hips, feet, heels, and thighs;
- Pain that is at its worst first thing in the morning or after long periods of inactivity, such as sitting;
- A forward, rigid curvature of the spine;
- Joint swelling; and
- Trouble breathing deeply.
Ankylosing spondylitis can cause other complications, too. For example, 40 percent of sufferers will also develop uveitis, an inflammation of the eye that can cause pain and blurred vision. Additionally, those with AS are more likely to develop certain cancers, such as bone, prostate, colon, and blood-related cancers.
In some cases, the damaged vertebrae in a person suffering from AS can also cause nerve issues at the bottom of the spinal cord. If this occurs, the person can have trouble holding their bladder and/or bowels, and they may experience a loss of reflexes.
Diagnosis and Treatment
To receive a diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis you must receive a physical exam. During this physical exam, your doctor will look at your medical history and conduct tests to measure your mobility. These tests can include bending your spine in different directions or moving your legs into various positions. Moreover, your doctor may also test your breathing by having you take deep breaths.
Your doctor may also utilize imaging tests, though there are no AS-specific diagnostic tests. Instead, they may use X-rays to check your bones and joints. However, if you go to the doctor soon after the onset of symptoms, marks of the disease may not yet be evident through X-ray. Additionally, an MRI scan may be used to detect signs of ankylosing spondylitis in its initial stages. Blood work may also be ordered to test for the HLA-B27 gene, which many (though not all) AS sufferers have.
There are treatment methods that can help relieve the pain and discomfort of ankylosing spondylitis, though there is no outright cure for this disease. Of course, the longer that a person’s AS goes untreated, the more difficult it is to mitigate its effects. By treating the condition early, you can avoid permanent deformities to the spine.
Treatment options can include medication, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blocker injection; physical therapy; or, in rare circumstances, surgery. Home remedies can include lifestyle changes; exercise; quitting smoking; and practicing good posture.
Ankylosing Spondylitis and Your Long-Term Disability Claim
As is evident, ankylosing spondylitis can be debilitating. This condition brings with it a lot of pain, stiffness, and other potential complications. Those who work in sedentary jobs can find that AS can make it difficult to sit at their desk during the day without causing pain. Moreover, when someone suffers from pain, their focus will not be on their job; this can impact the quality of their work.
Regardless of where you work, AS can make it impossible to perform the duties of your job. Unfortunately, this condition has no cure. Moreover, it is a progressive disease, which means that, over time, it will get worse. While a person treats their AS, they may find working to be too much of a hindrance to managing their condition. In such situations, they must consider filing for long-term disability benefits.
When you file an LTD claim for ankylosing spondylitis you must prove that your condition prevents you from working. To do this, you must refer to your long-term disability policy and read its definition of disability. This definition of disability is vital for your claim. You must prove to your insurance company that your AS meets this definition to receive an approval of your claim.
How Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick Can Help You with Your LTD Claim
Managing your ankylosing spondylitis should be your top priority. However, filing for long-term disability benefits at the same time can be stressful and overwhelming. At Chisholm Chisholm & Kilpatrick we believe that you should not have to worry about filing for LTD benefits and dealing with the insurance company while also managing your condition. We understand how difficult this all is, and we want to help you.
Our team can evaluate your long-term disability policy to determine your definition of disability and use it to gather evidence to support your claim. Medical records will be your primary source of evidence, but it is beneficial, and often necessary, to include supplemental evidence. This supplemental evidence can include specialized doctor’s reports, witness statements, and vocational evaluations. CCK will gather the best evidence that shows how your ankylosing spondylitis disables you.
Additionally, our team can act as a point of contact between you and your insurance company. Insurance companies are not always the easiest to communicate with. Often, they repeatedly ask for more information, which can make the process overwhelming. We will handle all correspondence with them while also submitting all evidence and documentation on time to comply with any deadlines, such as the deadlines under ERISA.
Call CCK Today for a Free Consultation
When you develop a condition such as ankylosing spondylitis, you must consider filing for LTD benefits. Whether you are filing an initial claim or appealing a denial of benefits, CCK is ready to help. We have over 30 years of collective experience dealing with insurance companies and know how they operate. We want to ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve so that you can focus on your health.
Call CCK today at (800) 544-9144 for a free consultation with a member of our team. We will evaluate your case and see if we can assist you.
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